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Reality TV vs. reality — America is watching

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Reality TV has become popular, to say the least. Apparently we enjoy watching people be voted off islands, on the hunt for love and get fired on national television. Included in this group is our new president, who was the host of The Apprentice for a number of years.

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However, since the January inauguration, President Donald Trump is now faced with reality, which does not include retakes, professional editing and an audience who enjoys both failure and success.

But, his new job does include balancing an active audience’s perceptions and actual reality, particularly as it relates to the economy and some of his key initiatives.

Paradigm Shift

Trump has suggested a paradigm shift by stimulating economic growth through fiscal policy and government spending, rather than relying on monetary policy and lower interest rates. While economic fundamentals have been improving for several quarters, contributing to positive public perception, Trump’s proposed fiscal policy stimulus will have a relatively minor impact on long-term economic growth.

The empirical evidence suggests that when the economy is at full employment, any fiscal policy stimulus will have a temporary impact on growth, four to six quarters at best. In reality, fiscal policy stimulus does one thing on a long-term basis – it increases the national debt.

Tax Cuts

The president, along with others such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, has suggested tax cuts will pay for themselves by boosting economic growth. Yet, there is no evidence to support this idea. Rather, historical reality suggests cutting taxes will increase the federal debt burden.

Former President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s and former President George W. Bush in the early 2000s both cut taxes, yet there is little evidence that economic activity improved.  However, we do know the national debt mushroomed in both cases.

Repatriation of Foreign Profits

Believe it or not we have been here before. In 2004, the American Jobs Creation Act was passed. Part of the plan covered the repatriation of overseas profits at a reduced rate of 5.25 percent. In 2004, five companies, primarily pharmaceutical, dominated the almost $1 trillion foreign profit stockpile.

Only one-third of the total cash came back to the U.S. Most of the money went to repairing corporate balance sheets and rewarding shareholders with share repurchases. $18 billion did go into the U.S. Treasury’s coffer. The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan think tank, said the program was an ineffective means of increasing economic growth.

Today, the reality is that a small number of technology companies dominate the $2.5 trillion cash balances overseas. If offered a tax reprieve on repatriating foreign profits, history tells us the same behaviors will result—higher dividends and more share repurchases, which, I believe, will not materially impact the economy.

Multiplier Effect

The multiplier effect is a phenomenon where given a change in a particular input, such as government spending, a larger change in an output occurs, such as gross domestic product (GDP).

We are about to see a paradigm shift in the U.S.—moving from monetary policy stimulus (interest rates) to fiscal policy stimulus (government spending).

The million dollar question is, “Will it promote economic growth?” The Congressional Budget Office provides historical analysis on the efficacy of fiscal spending. The multipliers show that any form of increased government spending would have a higher multiplier effect than any form of tax cuts.

Economic Reality

There are two primary drivers of long-term economic growth, labor force growth rate and productive gains. Labor force growth rate in the U.S. is approximately 1.2 percent. Non-farm productivity year-over-year growth is 1.1 percent. Add them together, and you have a 2.3 percent trend GDP over the next few years. We could realize one or two quarters of 3.0 percent or greater GDP, but it’s not sustainable.

However, this is not a doomsday conclusion. If we do experience trend GDP between 2.0 and 2.5 percent, it will allow companies to grow revenues and earnings. This in turn will support higher stock prices.

Political Process Reality

Trump’s term has really just begun. And what many reality television enthusiasts, and the president himself, may be finding out is that reality TV can be fun to watch, but the reality of the political process may not be.

Follow UMB‡ and KC Mathews‡ on LinkedIn to stay informed of the latest economic trends. Read other recent commentary on umb.com.


K.C. Mathews joined UMB in 2002. As executive vice president and chief investment officer, Mr. Mathews is responsible for the development, execution and oversight of UMB’s investment strategy. He is chairman of the Trust Investment, Asset Allocation and Trust Policy Committees. Mr. Mathews has more than 20 years of diverse experience in the investment industry. Prior to joining UMB, he served as vice president and manager of the portfolio management group at Bank of Oklahoma for nine years. Mr. Mathews earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Mathews attended the ABA National Trust School at Northwestern University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst and member of the CFA Institute. He is past president of the Kansas City CFA Society and a past president of the Oklahoma Society of Financial Analysts.



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Dust off Your Finances: Spring Clean Your Financial House

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Spring is just around the corner, and with that comes the proverbial spring
cleaning. While most people recognize the value of scrubbing their homes, we recommend dusting off your finances as well.

Consider these tips to help ensure your financial house is cobweb-free.

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Settle In for a Review

  • Review the titling and ownership of all financial accounts. Make certain any accounts owned and titled in a trust, or have a Payable upon Death designation, will meet desired intentions if a transfer were to take place.
  • Review your credit report to make sure
    you’re in positive standing. You can request a free copy once every 12 months from annualcreditreport.com.
  • Review insurance policy and retirement account beneficiaries. This is particularly important if there has been a recent change in marital status. A spousal waiver will be needed if the beneficiary is not the spouse.

 Prepare for the Future

  • Execute a will and a living will. If these documents already exist, they should be reviewed on a regular basis. Circumstances and viewpoints change, which can heavily impact desired allocations and intentions.

Check Up on Your Cards

  • Check the interest rates that are being charged on all credit cards. For individuals who carry balances, consider consolidating to the card with the lowest interest rate or even contemplate a Home Equity Line of Credit as the interest may be tax-deductible.
  • Utilize a credit card that offers rewards. Many of these now carry no annual fee and offer cash back in addition to the travel and merchandise rebates.

Evaluate Your Employer Benefits

  • If financially possible, make the most of your 401(k) by contributing to the level that takes advantage of the full employer match.
  • Review your health insurance coverage options to ensure you are making the best selections for yourself and your family. If you are currently enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan coupled with a Health Savings Account, review your contributions to make sure you are maximizing your saving options.

Examine Your Life Insurance

  • Make certain existing coverage will meet the financial needs of your family if any member were to pass away, not just the primary income source for the family. Also, if the only secured life insurance is provided by an employer, consider pricing other term policies. Remember employer-provided insurance may not transfer if there is a change in jobs.
  • Research long-term care insurance. Ask your insurance provider about this coverage to ensure it offers home health care in addition to nursing home care. Life expectancy is much greater than it used to be, and in-home and community care continue to rise in price.

Freshen Up on Your Investments

  • Review or create an investment policy statement (IPS). This is an agreement with a financial advisor that states your investment purpose, time frame and risk tolerance. An IPS clearly states the investor’s goals and helps provide clear expectations, consistent communications and true accountability for both the advisor and the investor.
  • Conduct homework for obtaining professional services from investment consultants, estate planning attorneys and certified public accountants. Seek references from trusted friends and colleagues and stick with specialists. Professionals will be able to offer insights and guidance that will help individuals succeed in reaching their financial planning goals.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.pulation Survey/Housing Vacancy Survey, Series H-111, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC 20233.


As a Private Wealth Management regional manager, Brent is responsible for the growth and support of new customer relationships as well as supervision of regional sales associates. He is also responsible for oversight and delivery of the financial planning discipline within the region. With nearly 30 years of experience private wealth client relationship management, Brent is a seasoned banking professional with deep Texas roots. He attended the University of Texas at Arlington, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, and is a Candidate for CFP® certification. He serves as a board member of the Dallas Parks Foundation.



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Tax Facts {infographic}

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How much do you know about taxes?  If you’re like a lot of people, you just want to know how much you owe the IRS or how much the IRS owes you. But if you dig deeper, you will be amazed at how our income tax system has evolved and some of the interesting factoids that would astound even the most seasoned tax professional. In anticipation of Tax Day, we’ve compiled a great infographic that answers all (at least some) of your questions!
Tax Facts 2016

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UMB Financial Corporation (Nasdaq: UMBF) is a diversified financial holding company headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., offering complete banking services, payment solutions, asset servicing and institutional investment management to customers. UMB operates banking and wealth management centers throughout Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arizona and Texas, as well as two national specialty-lending businesses. Subsidiaries of the holding company include companies that offer services to mutual funds and alternative-investment entities and registered investment advisors that offer equity and fixed income strategies to institutions and individual investors.



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Financial Word of the Week: HSA vs. FSA

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Financial Word of the Week

You’ve probably heard a lot about health savings accounts (HSAs) recently. They have been all over the news because the industry saw a 29 percent increase in the number of accounts in 2014. In fact, UMB Healthcare Services recently reached 600,000 accounts and $1 billion in assets and deposits for HSAs.

So what is an HSA?

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To be eligible for an HSA, you must be enrolled in a qualified High Deductible Health Plan.  An HSA is a savings and investment tool for current or future qualified medical expenses. HSA deposits and earnings grow tax-free,1 and your withdrawals are tax-free as long as you spend the money to pay for eligible medical expenses. Deposits into your account up to the annual contribution limits and any interest on those deposits are not taxed. At the end of the year, the money you have saved rolls over and continues to do so throughout the duration of your HSA’s life. Many companies will also contribute to or match your HSA funds to a certain amount; free money for your medical expenses. You can find out even more about HSAs here.

Another type of account to consider, if it is offered by your employer, is a flexible spending account (FSA).

A FSA is also a tax-advantaged savings account. You can set aside funds each year to cover qualified medical costs throughout that year. Some companies will even contribute to your FSA. The big difference between an HSA and an FSA is that the funds you put into an FSA have to be used by a certain date or the money is forfeited. Learn more about FSAs here and take a look at our chart that compares three types of consumer directed health care.

Comparison of Consumer Directed Healthcare

 

1All mention of taxes is made in reference to federal tax law. States can choose to follow the federal tax-treatment guidelines for HSAs or establish their own; some states tax HSA contributions. Please check with your state’s tax laws to determine the tax treatment of HSA contributions, or consult your tax adviser. Neither UMB Bank n.a., its parent, subsidiaries nor affiliates are engaged in rendering tax advice.

 

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


UMB Financial Corporation (Nasdaq: UMBF) is a diversified financial holding company headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., offering complete banking services, payment solutions, asset servicing and institutional investment management to customers. UMB operates banking and wealth management centers throughout Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arizona and Texas, as well as two national specialty-lending businesses. Subsidiaries of the holding company include companies that offer services to mutual funds and alternative-investment entities and registered investment advisors that offer equity and fixed income strategies to institutions and individual investors.



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Financial Word of the Week: Tax Exemptions

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Financial Word of the Week

To wrap up this tax month, let’s talk about exemptions—special deductions that you can use to lower your taxable income.

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Exemptions are a set amount of income that is not subject to income tax. This amount could change each year and could be reduced if your adjusted gross income is above a certain amount. For 2014, you may deduct up to $3,950 for each exemption you claim. You may claim exemptions for yourself, your spouse and any dependents.

Phaseout of Exemptions (2014)

Filing Status                                       Adjusted Gross Income Level That Reduces Exemption Amount

Married Filing Separately                                       $152,525

Single                                                                                 $254,200

Head of Household                                                    $279,650

Married Filing Jointly                                               $305,050

Qualifying Widow(er)                                               $305,050

For example, if you are married and have two qualifying children, you may be able to claim four exemptions. For 2014, this would equate to an exemption amount of up to $15,800 ($3,950 x 4).

If you can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer, then you are not allowed an exemption for yourself on your own tax return, even if the other taxpayer does not actually claim you as a dependent.

A dependent can be either a qualifying child or other qualifying relative, but your spouse can never be considered a dependent. Special rules are used to determine whether someone can be considered a dependent.

For more information on exemptions, refer to IRS Publication 501.

 

*This post is not meant to replace the advice of a tax professional.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


UMB Financial Corporation (Nasdaq: UMBF) is a diversified financial holding company headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., offering complete banking services, payment solutions, asset servicing and institutional investment management to customers. UMB operates banking and wealth management centers throughout Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arizona and Texas, as well as two national specialty-lending businesses. Subsidiaries of the holding company include companies that offer services to mutual funds and alternative-investment entities and registered investment advisors that offer equity and fixed income strategies to institutions and individual investors.



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Financial Word of the Week: Tax Bracket

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FWOTW

Earlier this month, we discussed tax deductions and charitable deductions. This week, we want to talk about tax brackets.

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The United States has a progressive tax system, which means your marginal tax rate increases as your taxable income increases. Tax brackets indicate the marginal tax rate that applies to you based on whether your taxable income falls within a certain range or “bracket.” There are seven tax brackets in the United States, with marginal tax rates ranging from 10 percent to 39.6 percent.

A marginal tax rate is the tax rate you pay on each additional dollar of income. In other words, the first dollar of taxable income is taxed at the lowest rate. As your taxable income increases into the next bracket, only those dollars within that bracket are taxed at the new marginal tax rate.  The actual percent of your taxable income that you pay to the IRS is called your Effective Tax Rate.

Remember that your taxable income is the income left over after subtracting all allowable deductions and exemptions. We’ll discuss exemptions in our next tax-related financial word of the week.

To see which tax bracket might be applicable to you, please refer to the IRS website or see the below example.

Income-Tax-Rates-table

*This post is not meant to replace the advice of a tax professional.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


UMB Financial Corporation (Nasdaq: UMBF) is a diversified financial holding company headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., offering complete banking services, payment solutions, asset servicing and institutional investment management to customers. UMB operates banking and wealth management centers throughout Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arizona and Texas, as well as two national specialty-lending businesses. Subsidiaries of the holding company include companies that offer services to mutual funds and alternative-investment entities and registered investment advisors that offer equity and fixed income strategies to institutions and individual investors.



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Tax Facts {infographic}

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How much do you know about taxes?  If you’re like a lot of people, you just want to know how much you owe the IRS or how much the IRS owes you. But if you dig deeper, you will be amazed at how our income tax system has evolved and some of the interesting factoids that would astound even the most seasoned tax professional. To get ready for Tax Day tomorrow, arm yourself with some cocktail party chatter by taking a look at the infographic below.
Tax Day infographic

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Mr. Chen is a Vice President and Portfolio Manager for UMB Private Wealth Management. He is responsible for all aspects of portfolio construction, including asset allocation, security selection and mutual fund analysis for high-net-worth clients. He joined UMB in 2013 and has 10 years of experience in the financial services industry. Mr. Chen earned a Bachelor of Science in Business with an emphasis in Financial Management from Kansas State University and Master of Science in Business with a Finance Concentration from the University of Kansas. He serves on the board of directors for the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City and the Kansas City CFA Society. He is a Certified Financial Planner® and is a CFA charterholder.



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Financial Word of the Week: Charitable Deductions

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FWOTW

Last week we went over what a tax deduction is. This week we’ll focus specifically on the deduction for making charitable donations.

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If there are specific charities that you’re passionate about and want to help, the first step is to confirm that they are qualified to receive tax-deductible contributions before you give them anything.  Ask them to send you their IRS letter recognizing their tax-exempt status.  You can also call the IRS directly (toll-free) at 1-877-829-5500 or visit the IRS website to confirm an organization’s status.

Once you have confirmed their status, you need to keep track of all your donations to that organization.  The best way is to ask for a receipt every time you donate cash or property.

Some things to keep in mind:

  1. You cannot deduct contributions to specific individuals or families. Even if you give money to a qualified charity, you may not specify someone to receive the benefit.
  2. There are limits to how much you can deduct. Generally, you may not deduct more than 50% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).  For example, if your AGI is $30,000 and you contribute $20,000 in cash to a qualified charity, your deduction will be limited to $15,000.  If your income is above a certain threshold, the amount you can deduct may be reduced.
  3. If you volunteer for a qualified organization, some unreimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses may be deductible as well. A deduction of this type might include mileage for driving to and from the volunteer location.  However you may not deduct the value of your time, such as income you lost because you were volunteering instead of working.

For more information on Charitable Contributions, see IRS Publication 526.

 

*This post is not meant to replace the advice of a tax professional.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


UMB Financial Corporation (Nasdaq: UMBF) is a diversified financial holding company headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., offering complete banking services, payment solutions, asset servicing and institutional investment management to customers. UMB operates banking and wealth management centers throughout Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arizona and Texas, as well as two national specialty-lending businesses. Subsidiaries of the holding company include companies that offer services to mutual funds and alternative-investment entities and registered investment advisors that offer equity and fixed income strategies to institutions and individual investors.



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Financial Word of the Week: Tax Deductions

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FWOTW

Tax season is upon us. Have you filed your taxes yet? Our April series on tax terms will help you navigate the filing process, even if it’s for next year. Let’s start with tax deductions.

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There are several types of tax deductions.  A deduction is an expense or other amount that the IRS allows you to use to offset against your income to ultimately reduce the amount of income tax that you owe.  Certain expenses are considered “above-the-line deductions” and are deducted from your gross income.  These might include certain business expenses, alimony paid, or if you make contributions to a Traditional IRA, among others.  The income remaining is called your Adjusted Gross Income.  You can now look at another set of possible deductions, sometimes called “below-the-line deductions”.

You have two options when it comes to below-the-line deductions.  These deductions are subtracted from your Adjusted Gross Income to arrive at Taxable Income.  You simply choose the option that will reduce your Taxable Income the most:

  • Standard deduction – the standard deduction was created to simplify the life of the “average” taxpayer. Instead of making everyone responsible for documenting their deductible expenses, the IRS allows taxpayers to deduct a fixed amount as a standard deduction.  The amount of the standard deduction will depend on your filing status (single, married filing joint, etc), whether you are 65 or older, or blind. The amount might change each year.  The standard deduction would likely apply to you if your tax situation is relatively simple.
  • Itemized deduction – there are certain expenses that the IRS allows you to deduct from your Adjusted Gross Income such as mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and uninsured medical expenses to name a few. When you add up all these itemized deductions and the amount is greater than the standard deduction amount, you should use the itemized deduction amount to reduce your Adjusted Gross Income.  Just make sure you have proper documentation of these expenses or the IRS might disallow them, causing you to pay more in taxes than you otherwise would have to.

The Internal Revenue Service website has a list of potential deductions. This list details what can be deducted and the limits that apply to certain deductions.

For more advice on taking advantage of your tax credits, check out our recent blog post.

 

*This post is not meant to replace the advice of a tax professional.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


UMB Financial Corporation (Nasdaq: UMBF) is a diversified financial holding company headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., offering complete banking services, payment solutions, asset servicing and institutional investment management to customers. UMB operates banking and wealth management centers throughout Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arizona and Texas, as well as two national specialty-lending businesses. Subsidiaries of the holding company include companies that offer services to mutual funds and alternative-investment entities and registered investment advisors that offer equity and fixed income strategies to institutions and individual investors.



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Don’t let tax credits fall through the cracks

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How can you get a bigger refund when filing your taxes? These tips can help:
tax credit tips
Even if you’re dreading the process of filing your taxes this year, taking the time to know what you’re doing can equal a bigger refund check. Everything from plugging in your electric car to adopting a child can be considered for deductions, so don’t miss out on refunds this year.

The IRS offers several federal tax credit options designed to lessen the burden of taxpayers. This is especially true for low- and middle-income households, which often retain a higher percentage of their annual salaries for basic living expenses than high-income households.

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Earn tax deductions with a retirement plan
Some of the best tax deductions tend to be linked to retirement plans. With these deductions, you save money on annual taxes and invest in your future.

The Saver’s Tax Credit (previously known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) is for those making eligible contributions to a 401(k), IRA, or other workplace retirement plans such as a 403(b), 457, or Thrift Savings Plan. If you’re contributing and are in a lower-income bracket, you can receive a tax credit up to $1,000 when filing alone and up to $2,000 if filing jointly.  This credit is on top of the tax advantages already associated with retirement plans, which might include pre-tax contributions, tax-deferred growth, or tax-free withdrawals in retirement.

Tax credits for small business owners
The IRS also offers potential tax credits for small business owners. One of the biggest deductions is through a home office credit.

More than 50 percent of U.S. small businesses operate at an owner’s home, according to the Small Business Administration(SBA). Unfortunately, many fear taking advantage of this tax credit will red flag an audit from the IRS. The good news is, that fear is usually unfounded.

To be eligible for a home office tax deduction, the IRS requires a portion of a residential property to be considered a legitimate home office. The home must be a primary workplace. If there is an additional office used, you cannot file a home office deduction. An exception can sometimes be made for those who work all day at an office part of the week and all day at home the rest of the week.

To figure out a home office credit, the SBA recommends calculating deductions by comparing the size of the home office versus the rest of the home. However, a business owner can also deduct expenses for a separate freestanding structure, which means a business owner can use a studio to conduct work, or a garage or barn for storage. But those freestanding structures should be exclusively for business.

Tax refunds as a way to save
Remember that getting a large refund may not always be in your best interest. It could be a sign that you’re having too much money withheld from your wages. If you have trouble saving on a regular basis, however, forced savings through tax withholdings is better than not saving at all. Just try to set aside all or a portion of your refund for the future. Some great ways to use your refund include paying down high-interest debt, building an emergency fund and investing for retirement.

 

Take a look at the IRS website for a comprehensive list of deductions, and ask a trusted tax accountant for advice on which ones apply to your situation so you can take full advantage of your options.

 

*This post is not meant to replace the advice of a tax professional.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Mr. Chen is a Vice President and Portfolio Manager for UMB Private Wealth Management. He is responsible for all aspects of portfolio construction, including asset allocation, security selection and mutual fund analysis for high-net-worth clients. He joined UMB in 2013 and has 10 years of experience in the financial services industry. Mr. Chen earned a Bachelor of Science in Business with an emphasis in Financial Management from Kansas State University and Master of Science in Business with a Finance Concentration from the University of Kansas. He serves on the board of directors for the Financial Planning Association of Greater Kansas City and the Kansas City CFA Society. He is a Certified Financial Planner® and is a CFA charterholder.



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